Crystal Fairy (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/01/2014

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 98 mins

Engaging, painfully awkward road trip drama enlivened by a pair of strong performances from Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffmann, which it's slightly weakened by an underwhelming finale.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Sebastian Silva, Crystal Fairy (originally titled Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus) stars Michael Cera as Jamie, a thrill-seeking 20-something American bumming around Chile. While wasted at a party, he invites Earth-loving hippie chick Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman) to join him and his Chilean friends (the director's brothers Juan Andres Silva, Jose Miguel Silva and Agustin Silva) on a road trip where they plan to boil up a cactus fabled for its hallucinogenic qualities.

When Jamie wakes up the next day he has (or claims to have) no memory of inviting Crystal Fairy on the trip, so he's somewhat taken aback when she takes a bus and meets them on the way to their destination. As the trip continues, Jamie becomes increasingly irritated with Crystal Fairy and is coldly obnoxious towards her, which may or may not have repercussions when they finally embark on their (stolen) cactus-fuelled drug trip.

The Good
This is the first of Michael Cera's collaborations with writer-director Silva (the second, Magic Magic, is out soon) and on this evidence, it's an extremely profitable partnership, as Cera delivers comfortably his two best performances to date in both films, abandoning the relative safety of his dopey nice guy screen persona and playing – there are no two ways about it – an arsehole instead. Hoffmann is equally good as let-it-all-hang-out Crystal and the film plays interesting games with our sympathy (or lack of it) for both characters as the trip progresses.

Silva orchestrates scenes that have a strongly improvisational feel, which gives them both an air of convincing naturalism and a rough-edged sense of unpredictability that works well – there are also a number of nice little touches where Silva shows moments that reveal glimpses of the real Crystal Fairy underneath her facade. In addition, the film is frequently very funny, whether it's Jamie's cutting one-liners or more physical scenes like the awkwardness of an oblivious Crystal Fairy chatting to the boys whilst naked or Jamie's comical cactus crime.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that it's disappointingly light on actual plot (perhaps explained by the fact that it's partly autobiographical), with the final act revelations lacking the necessary dramatic impact. Similarly, the brothers are all disappointingly under-developed and are essentially reduced to standing around rolling their eyes while Cera and Hoffmann do all the character work.

Worth seeing?
A handful of flaws aside, Crystal Fairy is an engaging, well acted and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny drama that will strike a chord with anyone who's ever picked up an unwelcome guest while on holiday. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 19/08/2018 12:46

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